An Ideal Husband (1999)

Film review: An Ideal Husband (1999), directed by Oliver Parker

Based on a play by Osscar Wilde, An Ideal Husband is if not a farce, then at least not far from it. I’ve actually seen it twice now. First time, it was on in the background and I was watching it while trying to tidy the living room a while back. As I felt I didn’t quite follow it, I thought I’d give it another go, with no distractions. Well, that still didn’t work. Will get back to that in a bit.

The film is about Sir Robert and Lady Chiltern (Jeremy Northam with a mustache and the lovely Cate Blanchett). He’s an upstanding citizen and a politician, and one day, a Mrs. Cheveley (Julianne Moore) comes calling with a proposition … or, should I say, blackmail. It appears Sir Robert didn’t get his fortune in the most honourable of ways. She wants him to publicly endorse a scheme regarding a canal project in Argentina, which he has previously opposed, in return for her not making public a very incriminating letter.

Sir Robert feels trapped between a rock and a hard place – his wife went to school with Mrs. Cheveley and knows she’s a scheming bitch, but on the other hand, he doesn’t want his wife to know of his shady past. Cue comical misunderstandings, and so on and so forth.

Meanwhile, the father of Lord Arthur Goring (Rupert Everett) thinks his 36-year-old rake of a son must be in want of a wife, and is very persistant. The sister of Sir Robert, Miss Mabel Chiltern (Minnie Driver), is available, but is she willing?

Okay, and we’re back in the room.

After a second watch, I still scratched my head and wondered if I’d missed something, or if it really was that unmemorable. Apparently so. It’s a nice film, set in the late 1800s London society, with lush clothes. Oscar Wilde is famous for his witty one-liners and that’s what I enjoyed most of it – great dialogue. Sometimes it was a little like Buffy, as in “yeah, real people don’t actually talk like that”, but fun, nonetheless.

I just feel as if the film is really, really unmemorable. I can hardly remember it, and I only re-watched it again on Friday. Such a shame, because I was expecting more from it. The image I mostly seem to recall is that of Jeremy Northam and Rupert Everett at the baths, with Everett having his towel so far down it very nearly didn’t leave anything to the imagination. He has a fine physique, that man. But if that’s the enduring image, the rest of the movie really isn’t all that spectacular. Not bad, just not … all that interesting, no matter how many wonderful actors and actresses were in it, because let’s face it, it’s a stellar cast. Couldn’t ask for better. Just … no, it just feels a bit “meh”, to be honest. A very average 3 out of 5 corrupt MPs, and I have to say I was rather disappointed. Expected to really love it, but alas.

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